NFL conference championships bring big ratings for Fox, CBS

Why the NFL rules TV
Why the NFL rules TV

Thanks to a shocking ending in Seattle and a dominant performance in New England, the NFL wrapped up its conference championships on Sunday with equally dominant ratings for Fox and CBS.

According to Nielsen, 49.8 million viewers tuned into Fox to witness Seattle's wild overtime win over the Green Bay Packers, 28-22, in the NFC championship.

Those numbers make the game the most-watched program on American television since Super Bowl XLVIII last year.

The game's madcap final minutes -- agonizing for Packers fans, energizing for Seahawks fans -- helped its audience peak at 59.6 million viewers as it went into overtime.

Keep in mind, Nielsen only counts viewers at home, not groups of people gathered at bars, restaurants and viewing parties.

Later in the day, over on CBS, 42.1 million viewers watched a more subdued AFC championship as the New England Patriots decimated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7.

The strong ratings for CBS came just hours after the network announced it would once again be the home for Thursday Night Football in 2015.

Overall, this weekend's conference championships averaged over 45 million viewers.

While high, these totals were down from the comparable week last year, when 55.9 million viewers watched the NFC championship and 51.3 million watched the AFC championship.

But they're up from the totals a year earlier, in 2013, when the NFC championship drew 42 million viewers and the AFC drew 47.7 million.

packers seahawks

While a big ratings hit for Fox, this year's Seahawks' game also had an incredible social presence online.

Fans on social media followed along, almost dumbstruck, as the Seahawks somehow, someway erased a sixteen point halftime deficit to defeat the Packers.

"Based on my Twitter feed, this game should get a Nielsen rating of 'everyone,'" tweeted Brent Weinstein, head of digital media at United Talent Agency.

While the audience wasn't everyone, the NFC Championship did result in 358 million Twitter impressions.

The last minute heroics of Seattle are a great example of why the league's games have to be watched live, which is a rarity in today's delayed TV viewing world.

And the biggest broadcast of all is still to come: the Seahawks take on the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on NBC on February 1.

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